Recent anthologies can open our minds
In the digital age, shorter attention spans have made anthologies an ideal format for readers. Feel a sense of accomplishment as you complete each self-contained entry.
Happy Half-Hours: Selected Writings, by A.A. Milne, 180 pages, Notting Hill Editions hardcover, 2020
A. A. Milne, the renowned author of Winnie the Pooh, was a prolific writer of novels, plays, poems and essays. His overall literary output was not primarily geared toward children. The subjects he tackled were mostly of interest to his British and Continental readers.
This slim volume of 34 short essays encompasses whimsical stories and trenchant observations on health and aging, courtship, married life, country living and memories of childhood.
Milne skewers nouveau riche speculators, embraces pacifism in light of the devastation of World War I, and confronts the threat of atomic war subsequent to the Second World War. The book finds its footing in the second chapter.
Happy Half-Hours allows readers to concentrate for a short few moments and reap the lingering pleasure of a trenchant remark or witty coda. The essays were published between 1919 and 1952; the last when Milne was 70. He has been gone 65 years, yet these commentaries remain fresh and entertaining.
The red-ribbon bookmark, concise five-by-seven-inch size and light weight make this book a great choice for taking along when you may find a few moments to read — be it in line for your vaccination or on a long-deferred out-of-town trip.
You’ll appreciate Milne’s keen eye for descriptions and his stubborn idiosyncrasies which undoubtedly reflect an authentic British sensibility. How often will you encounter a book with the line, “what Mr. Gladstone said in ’74,” referring to 1874?
Second Nature: Scenes from a World Remade, by Nathaniel Rich, 304 pages, MCD x FSG Books hardcover, 2021
The 10 essays in Second Nature cover a wide range of provocative stories about mankind’s impact on the environment. Nathaniel Rich is a contributor to prestigious periodicals such as The New York Times Magazine and The New Republic, and the majority of the essays in this compilation have appeared in those venues.
Rich writes about the legal battles waged against big businesses polluting West Virginia, the political clout of the oil and gas industry in Louisiana, and the trade-off between rural and municipal interests.
Explore the enthusiasm of scientists and futurists seeking to revive extinct species. Meet the oddball Japanese scientist who believes he has found the secret of immortality in a microscopic creature. The strange wasting away and disappearance of starfish on the Pacific coast and the reemergence of life in New Orleans’ Ninth Ward abandoned after Katrina are fascinating subjects.
At their best, books impart information, spur us to reevaluate our assumptions and open our minds to new perspectives. This anthology does just that.
How to Lead: Wisdom from the World’s Greatest CEOs, Founders, and Game Changers, by David M. Rubenstein, 448 pages, Simon & Schuster hardcover, 2020
This inspiring and impressive book presents a series of chapters in the form of transcripts of 31 interviews conducted by David Rubenstein. The question Rubenstein poses to each subject is: What is the basis of your success as a leader? Each shares the lessons learned from making unconventional choices that reaped riches and renown.
Nonagenarians Warren Buffett and James A. Baker III as well as octogenarians Phil Knight, Colin Powell, Coach “K,” Nancy Pelosi and Jack Nicklaus have much to impart from the perspective of their longevity. The youngest subject is hedge fund manager Ken Griffin, who is in his early 50s. Let’s give him time to become better known.
Septuagenarian David Rubenstein is co-founder and co-executive chairman of the Carlyle Group, a private equity firm. He is a native of Baltimore who currently lives in the Washington, D.C. area. Rubenstein’s bespectacled countenance is recognizable to those who watch his interview show on Bloomberg and PBS.
You may be familiar with his philanthropic endeavors, having seen his name around town on public buildings, museums and monuments — notably the National Archives, Kennedy Center, National Zoo and Smithsonian Institution. Indeed, the book’s royalties are being donated to the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center.